When it comes to the sport of professional dirt bike racing, it's no secret that it's hard to make ends meet for teams and privateer riders alike. Take RCH Suzuki for example, as the team saw great success with Ken Roczen's 2016 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Series 450 Championship and then a year later unfortunately closed their doors. With so many teams coming and going on the regular, we noticed a smaller privateer effort on the rise in 2018 that is supporting multiple privateers at the best level they are able to. Meet Joel Micka, the owner of JMC Racing and man in charge at the newly expanded JMC Motorsports Husqvarna team. Supporting Chase Marquier and Chris Howell on the West Coast along with Jon Ames and Austin Root on the East Coast, you'll be seeing more of this team throughout the season. We sat down for a quick chat with him to hear what they were all about and how he plans to keep expanding his operations.
Hey Joel, tell me a little about your team. When did it start?
I started it in 2016, and we actually had a brand new bike that Husqvarna released and we got our hands on the bike in November of that year. We had to have race bikes ready by Anaheim One, and that was a challenge. There were no aftermarket parts available, and that was a scramble to get bikes and equipment competition ready at that level.
And JMC Motorsports is your shop? It's a dealership, correct?
Yes, we are a Husqvarna dealer and Artic Cat dealer, and we also just took on Honda. We
Do you have a performance shop there as well?
Yes, but we pretty much just take care of our sponsored riders. We have several pros up here in the Northwest that we help out along with our newly assembled team here. We also have almost 15 amateurs around the United States that we help out the best we can. If you go back and look at Loretta Lynn's we have had more Husqvarna bikes there than the factory teams.
So you're based in Washington, and just enjoy supporting as many racers as possible it seems. You mentioned this team is growing this year – that has to be exciting.
We are, and we're going with two West Coast riders and two East Coast riders. If we get another young man who is getting his pro license, we will actually have three riders at some East Coast Rounds and another rider that works for us at a few West Coast rounds. So at some point we will actually have six.
Talk about how the Supercross team started.
It was kind of one of those things where the program started out in 2016 with Chris Howell, and then Noah McConohay showed some interest as well. The original plan was to help him through A1, and I'd never been to Supercross down on the floor before that. It didn't take me very long to figure out there was no way to do this without the support of a team. You have to have everyone helping the rider or it will become too much for them. Whether it's the mechanic, the coordination or the logistics, or sometimes it's just the mental aspect or the strength in showing them the confidence to believe in themselves – that's a big part of it as well. So once I saw that at A1 in 2016 I said to my wife, "There is no way these guys can be successful at this level without our help." So we continued helping and learning and figuring out how to look more professional along with what the sport at that level was all about. Both of my boys have been racing ever since they were six and seven years old, so we spent 12 years doing the amateur thing and living on the road. We've been racing a long time, and I started the dealership back in 2007 and have just slowly been growing that. So we're a small dealership in Eastern Washington and have kind of been growing this thing ever since.
At this level, especially in the 250 class, it can get really expensive to try to compete. What is your biggest challenge for a team like yours?
Well, you know cash is always a hurdle but I think our team is rather unique in the fact that we really have a lot of respect for what the riders want and need. We try not to lock ourselves into relationships to where we'll have to run an inferior product. The whole goal has really been two-fold –when Noah got pulled out of the program with another opportunity that was ok. I don't have these guys locked in, and if there's an opportunity to go to a bigger program and better themselves we're not going to hold them down. You saw that with McAdoo and Motoconcepts, and I have a lot of respect to them for letting him go [to GEICO Honda.] Because I know how much money we have to spend, I mean we are no different than anyone else and it takes a lot of money to go do this. You can't do it without the sponsors, and there are some sponsors that have been with us since we started and they are staying with us. I think we give them advertising through our performance and professionalism and we want to give them their money's worth and try to get better every year. This year we have some surprises, and have a bigger rig that's more economical to run and doesn't have a trailer. It's a 46' Renegade and it's in our shop getting renovated. It's a 2001 but it's going to look really good. It's cheaper to run that rig.
So you do things with a bang for your buck concept.
Well, I think to build the program up and not all of the sudden be "here today, gone tomorrow" I think there are so many opportunities where teams come in and try to go too big too fast. I don't want to be one of those teams that is here today and gone tomorrow. That doesn't give me the confidence and support from manufacturers or industry people. If you take support from a brand one year and then switch it up the next year it doesn't give anyone any confidence to invest in the program. We want to earn that ride, and earn that staying power. We have a bigger rig that we'd like to unveil at Las Vegas when all four riders are there, and that should give people a look into whats coming for 2019. We're already planning ahead for next year, and can hopefully continue to find sponsors that support it. Also having knowledge and people that are willing to help you, you can't put a price tag on that. An example is Ross at ENZO, I can't say enough about the guy. He's really going out of his way to help us out and is just a super guy.
It's aligning with like-minded people that are truly down for your cause.
It's one of those things, where I had a lot of calls from riders this year. And some really good riders were calling and asking about what we can offer. Right now we're still not a salary-based team, and this is what I was telling you earlier. We have a lot of respect for our riders, because they are as much of the team as we are and are just as much invested as we are –it's a group effort. So, we have to supply the structure and the pit presence and they have to bring the talent and their effort and work ethic. They don'y get paid unless they perform, and they get paid from performance so that's where their checks will come from. And I'm hoping as the program continues to grow we can get some bigger cash sponsors. That's a whole learning curve, and I've been self-employed for over 20 years so I'm not used to going out and selling advertising and getting money that way. It's kind of outside of my makeup, and we are going to have to learn and continue to sell to get to that higher level and continue to grow.
That's really cool. Best wishes to you and the crew this year and beyond.
I think we love the sport as much as anyone else that's in it, and as I said before about our amateur riders the goal with that is to keep the kids on a motorcycle and chasing that dream that is going to keep our sport alive.